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Some interesting anecdotes of The Indian Derby - By Bob Sawhny

Posted on - 26 Jan 2015

Some interesting anecdotes of The Indian Derby
By Bob Sawhny
Mumbai: The Indian Derby is a fantastic horse racing event held on the first Sunday of February at the Mahalaxmi Racecourse in MumbaiIndia. As The Indian Derby is being sponsored by Dr. Vijay Mallya’s UB Group since 1986, the highly renowned race is named The McDowell Indian Derby (Gr.1).  It is one of the premier sporting activities in the city and it was first run in the year 1943. The first running of "The Indian Derby" was on Saturday, 30th January 1943 and it  was won by 'PRINCESS BEAUTIFUL' owned by HH The Maharaja Gaekwar of Baroda, trained by M. C. Patel, and ridden by Jockey E. Britt. Interestingly, 'PRINCESS BEAUTIFUL' also won the Indian 1000 Guineas and Indian 2000 Guineas that year and was ridden by E. Britt on all three occasions.
The Indian Derby has been the most coveted racing prize in the country since 1943 and like all great races it has its share of all that makes racing the best supported spectator sport in the world. Another great filly was HH Maharaja Of Gwalior’s Rose Royal who won The 1965 Indian Derby and she was a stupendous triple crown winner of the 1000 Guineas, Indian Oaks and The Indian Derby. She was trained by Major V.M. Lad and ridden in all the three classics by veteran English Jockey Frankie Durr.
In the 1963 edition, the Judge had called for a photograph to decide the winner. The camera, however failed and with no photograph available, the Judge declared the verdict in accordance with his judgement. In those days, when a photo-finish was announced, the Judge always first called out the number of the horse he had judged to have won. In this case, he had called out Rocklie’s number first, even before the camera failure became known.
Class, courage, soundness, speed, stamina and pedigree are the main attributes that are usually found among the champion thoroughbreds who have won The Indian Derby. They have, however, been a few exceptions viz., Martial Law who cut a snail-like time of Two minutes 50 seconds whilst winning The Derby in 1952 & Pyare Miya who was a maiden before he won the 1975 Indian Derby.
Triple Crown Winners - Commoner (1954), Loyal Manzar (1962), Prince Pradeep (1964), Red Rufus (1966), Our Select (1968), Squanderer (1977), Almanac (1982), Astonish (1992), Indictment (1997)  and Smart Chieftan (2000) were all exceptionally brilliant horses.
The phenomenal wonder filly Jacqueline, the joint property of Mr. & Mrs. Vijay Shirke, Mr. Khushroo N. Dhunjibhoy & Mr. Berjis Minoo Desai was the greatest India filly, as she became the only horse in Indian racing history to win over Rupees Three Crore in stakes and four successive Indian Classics in 2009 - 2010 viz., The Indian 1000 Guineas, Indian 2000 Guineas, The Indian Oaks and The Indian Derby. However, the six outings that she had on the Mumbai track during the 2009-10 season, especially the 2400M races in the Derby and the Invitation Cup where she succumbed by a mere head to Becket after a very tough tussle unfortunately took its toll on the wonder filly, after which, she was aptly retired.
Other great fillies were Fair Haven (1969) and Amazing Bay (1996) who won The Indian Oaks, The Indian Derby and The Indian St. Leger. Plus, the classy filly Her Majesty owned by the late A. C. Ardeshir was another - All Time Great who was extremely unlucky not to have won the Derby in 1947 (as she was seriously injured when she bumped into her stable mate Equity). However, she won all the other Indian Classics in a sensational manner.
The horses on which Pesi Shroff achieved the great feat of winning eight Indian Derbies were Enterprising(1984), Revelation (1985), Exhilaration (1989), Star Fire Girl (1990), Desert Warrior (1991), Littleover (1994), Storm Again (2001) and Psychic Flame (2004).
Trainer Rashid R. Byramji has won the Indian Derby a record 11 times with Prince Khartoum, Topmost, Squanderer, Manitou, Commanche, Mohawk, Nelston, Cordon Bleu, Astronomic, Littleover and Elusive Pimpernel. Byramji is the only professional to have achieved this rare feat of scoring a hat-trick twice. The first hat-trick came with the victories of Squanderer (1976), Manitou (1977) and Commanche (1978), while his second hat-trick was with the tri of Astronomic (1993), Littleover (1994) and Elusive Pimpernel (1995).
Dr MAM Ramaswamy, the biggest horse owner in the history of Indian Turf, had to wait for nearly two decades to win the Indian Derby in his own silks. Amazing Bay finally won it for him in 1996. He now also holds the record for maximum Derbies (7) by an Owner with Exhilaration (jointly owned), Amazing Bay, Star Supreme, Smart Chieftan, Starsky, Southern Regent and Diabolical.
(Disclaimer: The views expressed in this column are the author's personal views.)

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